Jets' Defense Cracks NFL's Top Ten Rankings

Muhammad Wilkerson | New York Jets

As Mark Sanchez continues to scuffle, Rex Ryan's defense is quietly ascending to the league's elite units.

After suffering a loss in a demoralizing game against the New England Patriots, the New York Jets have strung together two straight wins and sit just one spot away from an improbable postseason berth. While the wins have helped bolster the team's morale, they tell a tale of two stories.

On the one hand, the offense has continued to struggle moving the ball beyond the goal line. On the other, the low scoring output offense has forced the defense to elevate their game and demonstrate why the New York Jets have always been a defensive force under Rex Ryan's tenure.

Through 13 games this year Gang Green sits in the top ten in multiple defensive categories. They are tenth in sacks (31), eighth in total yards allowed per game (332.5), and third in passing yards allowed (196). After missing star cornerback Darrelle Revis to an ACL tear, the secondary has more than filled in for the injured University of Pittsburgh alum. However it is the front seven and the newly established pass-rush that has given the defense all the success that they've seen.

"All of the coaches, position coaches and defensive coordinator, are putting together a great game plan," says breakout lineman Muhammed Wilkerson. "All 11 guys are getting out there and executing."

Wilkerson is just one of the budding stars on the Jets' defensive front. The lineman has already enjoyed a breakout season, recording 56 tackles including four sacks, forcing three fumbles, returning a few of them for six points. His dominating play has led to Pro Bowl consideration. Remaining humble, Wilkerson credits his staff for his on-field success.

"I give the credit to Coach Rex Ryan," added Wilkerson. "I'm proud to be a Jet. They brought me here. I'm going to continue to play like a Jet and do my best for the defense."

In addition to Wilkerson, the Jets have added a cornerstone lineman for years to come with their first round pick in Quinton Coples. The freshman player has transitioned well to the NFL after playing for his alma mater, theUniverstity of North Carolina. Coples has recorded 22 tackles this season including five sacks. His play has earned him a starting spot on the defense and the admiration and respect from his coaches and teammates.

"Going from college to the NFL is definitely a lot different," said Coples. "I don't know if you can compare the two (in terms of) the level of intensity and the different levels of play. I'm still learning, still grasping everything and I think everything is falling into place."

With their next game against Tennessee looming on Sunday, the defense needs to focus on shutting down the running attack of Chris Johnson. Despite suffering a fall in production in recent years, Johnson has looked considerably better this season and appears to have found his step. Shutting down the star running back will be key if the Jets hope to come out of Monday Night's game with their third straight win.

"I know that each week we're going to continue to work hard and to get better," says lineman Mike Devito. "We really want to win this game no matter what the situation or scenario is, we're going to fight to win this game."

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